It was an historic day on the SMU campus, as world leaders, family, friends and others gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. The prestige of the Presidency was multiplied Thursday morning as the five living American presidents put aside their political differences to celebrate the thirteenth U.S. Presidential Library and its namesake.
However, all the pomp and circumstance may make more sense when you walk through the doors of the presidential center. KCBD was given a first-hand look of the museum that represents a life, a presidency and nearly a decade of American history.
"People learn about their American history through their presidents: George Washington was the Revolution, Jefferson is our papers, Teddy Roosevelt is 20th century and Bush is the first president of the 21st century, so we'll learn through this building," the Bush Foundation president said.
Campaign buttons, personal letters, a handgun belonging to Sadam Hussein and even a Levelland ball cap are some of the more than 40,000 artifacts inside the Bush Center. A full-size replica of the Oval Office and Rose Garden will make you feel like you're on Pennsylvania Avenue yourself.
"I literally got goose bumps walking into the Oval Office. I felt like I was walking in for a meeting and it was time to go to work," longtime Bush advisor Karen Hughes said.
However, it's the memorial of September 11th that is sure to stop many visitors in their tracks. As guests move into the exhibit they are struck by two massive, mangled beams, rubble from World Trade Center, Tower Two.
"To see those beams and to touch those beams, and to see the news clips, you feel the horror of watching those two planes hit the towers," Hughes said.
The bull-horn President Bush used just days after the attacks sits behind glass, as his words spoken from Ground Zero will take you back to that fateful day.
"It's important to remind people of it, it's a very pivotal moment in our history," Laura Bush said.
And that's exactly what the Bushes hope to do with this presidential center: Deliver the facts and simply let the people decide from there.
"I think it's presented in a very candid way. There are no attempts to shade what happened in Iraq or Katrina. People can make their own conclusions," Campaign advisor, Mark McKinnon said.
On Thursday as he stood in front of a building that represents his past, the former president pointed us toward the future as he choked back tears.
"I have no doubt, looking ahead that our nation's best days lie ahead."
The $250 million price tag for the facility was entirely paid for by private donations. However, the Bush Foundation signed it over to the National Archives and Records Administration on Wednesday.
The museum opens to the public on May 1st and the price of admission is $16.
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